Female Genital Mutilation

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By Yukta Pandey

It’s your 5th sumptuous birthday and you are dancing with happiness and joy as your mother and family members have told that you are going to get your best surprise of your life. Your Mom asks you to get ready as they are taking you to your surprise. You, unknown to the whole situation, go and get ready, and then you, with your family, move ahead to a dark place with almost no light. Suddenly, your Mom grabs you as hard as it crushes your hands. Some other females of the family forcefully lay you down. Suddenly, an old woman comes towards you with a blade, she grabs and cuts your genital organs. You are crying for help but nobody listens to you. Crying in pain, nobody is there for you.

Just tr to assess the impact of that on your life. You will be in grave depression. For now, you must be taking it as a sad story but what if I say this is happening almost every single day in many parts of the world in great silence? Is the only way to abstain a girl from having pre-marital sex is by cutting her genital, not by educating and mentoring her? Does the silence of a girl give these abject people the right not to consider her a human?

Female Genital Mutilation is an apposite example of inhumanity. Female Genital Mutilation is a practice that is hidden behind many unethical morals which make people think that it is going to save their dignity. Many of you might be unaware of this term “Female Genital Mutilation”. It is a procedure performed especially by cultural rite that typically includes the total or partial excision of female external genital, especially clitoris and labia. According to the World Health Organization, Female Genital Mutilation is defined as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or injury to the female genital organs for non–medical reasons.” It is a ritualistic practice in over 27 countries in the continent of Africa and in some parts of Asia, like in Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Historically, it was performed in South Saharan Africa, Arab societies and in the Roman culture where it was performed in their own respective ways.The practice is usually carried out by a traditional circumciser or a person who is experienced in doing the mutilation in a traditional way and in non-medical setting.

The entire procedure of FGM, if explained to you in detail, could lead you to pass out or give you a frisson. This procedure is followed and professed by snollygosters. With reference to WHO, there are more than 140 million girls and women globally who have experienced or undergone these procedures. There are 3 million and more girls at risk of undergoing this heinous procedure every year, particularly in Africa. According to researchers and doctors, it has been proven that even the least severe form of genital mutilation leads to complications during child-birth and puts the victim at risk of other health complications, too. This study also showed that the practice of FGM is favored by social acceptance, as well. The practice is considered to be an honor and earns the family respect.

There are also some myths like it increases the girl’s chances of getting married or cleanses a girl from impure thoughts and desires. There are some social believes that genital mutilation controls sexual promiscuity, protects the girl from potential seducers and rapists, and also preserves her virginity.

FGM has short term and long-term ill-effects on the health and psychological well-being of the victims. The severity of the cutting/mutilation directly corresponds to the harm suffered. Since anesthesia is rarely used on the victim during the procedure, there is extreme pain. The other short-term health risks are excessive bleeding, swelling and inflammation in the genital area, infection, urinary problems and in some extreme cases, even death. The long- term consequences include chronic genital infections, recurring urinary tract infection, painful sexual intercourse, complication during pregnancy, labour and delivery of the child, prenatal risks and debilitating psychological consequences like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. FGM, unlike male circumcision, does not have beneficial health effects.

Due to the nature of FGM, in which brutally is inflicted upon the very organ of a woman that reproduces and gives life to a new future generation are mutilated, it is a violation of the human rights of women and children, infringes the right to life and physical integrity, the right to health and the right to freedom from torture, cruel and unusual treatment, and violence. Since FGM is practiced mostly on minor girls who are below the age of 18 years, it is also a violation of the rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 (UNCRC) and violates the guarantee of non-discrimination.

Since a very long time, the sexual desire has been viewed in a way that it needs to be protected and therefore, people think that circumcising their daughters is important and ethical. It had been many a times argued that it has a positive impact on the health of the victim to avoid certain kinds of infection. But in the shadow of their dignity, what they forget is that FGM not only violates the right to life and dignity but also clearly violates the right to non-discrimination based on sex. The purpose and impact of male and female circumcision are different and causes gross discrimination against women.

In the end, relinquishment of this practice must be rooted in the communities which practice it. It is important to know that this inhumane practice is deeply entrenched in cultures and as a consequence, despite many laws that may outlaw it, they are still practiced. The only effective way to stop this is to spread awareness and educate people as FGM is an outcome of illiteracy, myths and ignorance of people. There is a necessity for “collective abandonment” in which an entire community chooses to no longer engage in FGM.

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